Identity Theft is a fraud committed or attempted using the identifying information (any name or number that may be used alone or in conjunction with any other information, to identify a specific person) of another person without authority.
Signs of identity theft:
- Bills or statements that do not arrive as expected.
- Unexpected credit cards, bills or account statements.
- Denials of credit for no apparent reason. (i.e. For credit you did not apply for.)
- Calls or letters about purchases you did not make.
- Charges on your account or credit card statements that you do not recognize.
- Incorrect information on your credit reports. (Accounts or addresses you do not recognize or information that is inaccurate.)
- Notice from the IRS.
- Calls or mail about accounts in a minor child’s name.
Be proactive and protect yourself from Identity Theft with these helpful tips.
Know with whom you are sharing information with:
- Do not give out personal identifying information over the phone, internet, or through the mail unless you have initiated the contact.
- If a company claims to have an account with you in an email and requests more information, type in the company’s name in a search engine, go to the company’s site, and contact them using the informaton on their site. Ask if they actually sent a request to verify that it is legitimate or not.
Monitor your accounts:
- Read your credit reports. You have a right to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit report companies. To order, go to annualcreditreport.com.
- Read your bank, credit card, and account statements, and the explanation of medical benefits from your health plan.
- Make sure all charges, checks, claims and withdrawals are authorized. If you can, monitor accounts online to catch problems faster.
Ask questions before deciding to share personal information:
- Before sharing personal information, ask:
- Why do you need it?
- How will it be used?
- How do you safeguard it?
- What are the consequences of not sharing?
- You can opt out on prescreened offers of credit. Call 1-888-567-8688 or visit optoutprescreen.com. You can opt out for 5 years or permanently.
Store and dispose of information securely:
- Lock up financial documents, keep information secure from visitors.
- Lock up your purse/wallet at work.
- Shred documents when no longer needed.
- E.g. Receipts, credit card offers, financial/insurance statements and checks.
- Destroy labels on prescription bottles.
- Limit what you carry. Take only the ID, credit and debit cards you will need.
- Collect mail daily and avoid leaving outgoing mail in a mailbox overnight or for long periods of time.
- When leaving your home for several days, have the post office hold your mail.
- Mail new checks to a secure mailbox.
- Only keep financial information on your laptop when necessary.
- Pay attention to billing/statement cycles. If you did not receive one as scheduled, it may have been diverted by an identity thief.
Maintain appropriate security on computers and other electronic devices:
- Before you throw out computers, wipe off all your personal information. Use a wipe utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive.
- When throwing out a mobile device, see the manufacturer’s website or owner’s manual for instructions on how to delete personal information permanently.
- Encrypt data on your internet browser. Make sure there is a “lock” symbol next to the address before entering in personal information.
- Do not write down passwords. Instead, come up with a phrase that will help you remember it and also make it stronger. Substitute numbers or symbols for words or letters. E.g. “I love my little dog Sammy” could be 1LmlDSe.
- Don’t post too much information on social networking sites.
- Never post your full name, date of birth, Social Security number, address, phone number or account numbers in a publically accessible website.
- Use security software.
- Install anti-virus, anti-spyware and a firewall on your computer. Update the software often.
- Avoid opening emails from strangers, do not click on the links, download or open files.
- Use a secure wireless network; put a password on your Wi-Fi.
- When using public Wi-Fi, use encrypted websites for sending information.
- Put a log-in password on your computers.
- Do not use a username and password auto-fill feature and log-off when finished.